Foul tip: BoSox series preview

For all the talk about Joe Mauer--well-deserved, mind you--another steady bat in the Twins lineup has been overshadowed in recent weeks.

After being jerked around by Ron Gardenhire the last couple seasons--due to Gardy's onetime infatuation with Matthew LeCroy and ongoing delusions about Lew Ford--Michael Cuddyer has finally been given the chance to be a nearly every day player at a position where he's comfortable. Trouble is, it's about a season too late. Even so, Cuddyer has responded in kind.

First, it must be said that misgivings about Cuddyer in the field are unfounded. He's no third baseman, but he's a better-than-average outfielder with a strong arm. He's less likely to blunder out there than Ford.

But it's his bat that continues to impress: He just looks like a hitter out there. Gardenhire must have noticed this too, as he finally moved the fool-swingin' Torii Hunter down to the six hole and moved Cuddyer to the four spot.

A good move? Sure, at least statistically. Cuddyer has the better batting average and on-base percentage, .272 to .257 and .362 to .328. And Cuddyer's slugging percentage is much better, .538 to .417.

In fact, all indications are Cuddyer is having a break-out year. He has nine home runs already--his career high for a year is 12 in each of the last two seasons--and his RBI total is at 32, compared with a season best of 45 in 2004. He's ready to equal his career marks in less than half the games.

In fact, Cuddyer's homers and ribbies are comparable to Hunter's (nine HRs, 35 RBIs), even though he's played in 11 fewer games. His weak spot: He's struck out almost as many times as Hunter as well, 42 to 45.

That said, this series could be one where his consistency this season becomes apparent. Look for Cuddyer to make the difference in at least one Twins victory.

Speaking of Joe Mauer, was it any surprise he was named AL player of the week? "Mauer led all Major League hitters by batting .625 (15-24) with five doubles, four RBI and two stolen bases, and he also reached base safely four times in five consecutive games," the press release notes. "The St. Paul, Minnesota native raised his average 20 points last week to a Major League leading .386 for the season. This is the first career weekly award for Mauer."

The other contenders for player of the week were Ichiro of the Mariners, who hit .556 and scored six runs, and Cleveland's Victor Martinez (.458, 4 HR, 11 RBI)--good weeks that somehow pale in comparison.

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